Saudis share food despite restrictions

Sharing food increases bonds between people and brings out the affection in them. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 22 May 2020

Saudis share food despite restrictions

  • Cultural tradition continues during Ramadan, albeit cautiously due to coronavirus

JEDDAH: Saudis’ deeply ingrained and dearly held tradition of sharing food has continued during Ramadan despite coronavirus fears, albeit cautiously.

Fatimah Ahmed, a 53-year-old housewife and mother of four, told Arab News that she has shared food with the janitor “as he lives alone and doesn’t have a family that cooks for him during this special time of the year.”

She said the concept is not only about sharing food, but sharing joy and God’s reward as well.

Afaf Filemban, 50, told Arab News that she has shared food with her neighbors “because I feel like it increases bonds between people and brings out the affection in them.”

Summaiya Ezmirli, a Syrian expat living in Jeddah, said her family shared food only from mid-Ramadan as they were very cautious at first.

“We observed the neighbors and how careful they were, so we decided to start sharing our food with them,” she told Arab News.

Ezmirli said her family still supports social distancing, but sharing food with trustworthy people while keeping a safe distance is different.

“We make sure no one comes in direct contact with each other. We just hand over the tray of food and greet each other,” she added.

Ezmirli said the circumstances are hard but people need to make the best of every situation, and sharing food during Ramadan is part of the holy month’s charm.

“We can’t go to our families and have iftar parties — neighbors are all we have in this situation,” she added.

Amal Abbas, a mother of five from Makkah who lives in Jeddah, said she is making the dessert dibyaza, which is usually prepared prior to Eid, and delivering it to friends.

“Of course this is just for close friends who didn’t get to buy dibyaza, or don’t know how to make it, or don’t have the patience to do it,” she told Arab News.

“I made sure to sanitize everything and put the dibyaza in tupperware. I also gift-wrapped some bukhoor (incense) as a gift.”

$800bn plan to turn Riyadh into cultural hub for the Middle East

Updated 06 July 2020

$800bn plan to turn Riyadh into cultural hub for the Middle East

  • Saudi capital’s planning chief unveils ambitious strategy ahead of G20 urban development summit

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is launching a SR3 trillion ($800 billion) plan to double the size of Riyadh in the next decade and transform it into an economic, social and cultural hub for the region.

The ambitious strategy for the capital city was unveiled by Fahd Al-Rasheed, president of the Royal Commission for the City of Riyadh, ahead of key meetings of the U20, the arm of the G20 leaders’ summit that deals with urban development and strategy.

“Riyadh is already a very important economic engine for the Kingdom, and although it’s already very successful, the plan now, under Vision 2030, is to actually take that way further, to double the population to 15 million people,” he told Arab News.

“We’ve already launched 18 megaprojects in the city, worth over SR1 trillion, over $250 billion, to both improve livability and deliver much higher economic growth so we can create jobs and double the population in 10 years. It’s a significant plan and the whole city is working to make sure this happens.”

About $250 billion in investment is expected from the private sector, with the same amount generated by increased economic activity from population growth, finance and banking, cultural and desert tourism, and leisure events.


  • 18 megaprojects have already been launched worth over $250 billion.
  • 7 million trees planted in Riyadh in the next few years.
  • King Salman Park will be bigger than Hyde Park in London.

“We must also ensure the growth is managed properly, so there will be a focus on transport and logistics, including the Riyadh metro which will open at the beginning of next year. The aim is to increase productivity,” Al-Rasheed said.

The plan involves the creation of a “mega industrial zone” focusing on advanced technology such as renewables and automation, and biotechnology and aquaponics. Another key feature is sustainability, with energy conservation, the circular carbon economy with its emphasis on reducing emissions, and water management, all priorities.

“You will see 7 million trees planted in Riyadh in the next few years, and King Salman Park will be bigger than Hyde Park in London,” Al-Rasheed said.

The city also aims to be a Middle East artistic and cultural hub. An opera house is being considered, as well as public art shows with 1,000 works commissioned from around the world. “We have not seen anything like it since Renaissance Florence,” Al-Rasheed said.

The plans will be discussed this week during online meetings of the U20 linking Riyadh with Houston. The Texas oil capital is suffering a new spike in coronavirus cases and pandemics will be on the agenda. “We want to deal with this one, but also be ready for the next one,” Al-Rasheed said.